From the onset of modern civilisation, bridges have been both iconic structures and vital transportation routes that have helped to connect our world. From early designs using natural resources, to modern engineering techniques and advances in building materials, bridge construction has evolved in unison with the increasing demands of humankind.
Today’s bridges have become lifelines for major cities, and transportation agencies face a myriad of challenges to optimise the flow of goods and people. From ensuring the operability of ageing structures, to planning, financing, and constructing modern replacements that improve accessibility, solutions to the challenges posed by bridges are essential to social and economic development.
WSP’s expertise extends to all types of bridges, from viaducts and interchanges, to railway and pedestrian bridges, and even wildlife crossings. Having designed, analysed, built, maintained, and managed thousands of bridge projects, we are able to offer fully integrated services that address financial, social, environmental and aesthetic requirements.
Global leaders in bridge engineering
All bridges require optimal designs to ensure resistance against wind, earthquakes and other external forces. Innovations in materials, equipment, and construction methods have allowed us to cross great distances in safer ways, while minimising environmental impacts. To create infrastructure that is resilient and sustainable, our bridge experts work with the latest design tools, including BIM, 3D analysis and modelling systems.
For the US Army Transportation Corps, which is responsible for the movement of Army personnel and material, we designed the world’s first recycled plastic railway bridge. The recycled structural composite (RSC) technology was developed with scientists at Rutgers University, in New Jersey.
Many of WSP’s projects include award-winning signature bridges, including the Redhayes Bridge in the UK ,the Finnevik Bridge in Finland, , the George C. King Bridge in Canada, the Ekensbergsbron Bridge in Sweden, the Tran Thi Ly Bridge in Vietnam, and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Replacement in the US.
We know that all bridges are unique and require a good comprehension of the local geology, hydrology, and wind forces. The development of reliable computer software for predicting structural behaviours, both during and after construction, has helped pave the way to higher, longer, and more resilient bridges.
Bridges are local, by nature
We look at each opportunity with fresh eyes, and take into consideration local specificities, financial realities and the desired purpose of the bridge to find the best solution. Our experts have worked on all types of bridges, from girder bridges to truss and cable-stayed bridges, and they have mastered all construction methods. In India, we worked on the Chenab, the tallest and longest-spanning railway all-steel structure in the world. In Finland, our experts helped build the Kruunuvuorensilta, one of the longest bridges in the world dedicated only to pedestrians, cyclists, and public transportation.
Innovative solutions are also needed in bridge management. “We use specialised materials, new technologies and tools to support our capacities,” says Tom Cooper, technical director with the Complex Bridge Group in the US. Think of drones for bridge inspection, sensors for data collection and 3D capabilities in design.
Bridge management, inspection and maintenance
Infrastructure agencies increasingly face challenging questions in managing their aging bridge assets. The Federal Highway Administration in the US estimates it will cost $20.5 billion annually for the next 16 years to update existing publicly owned bridges. The situation is similar across the world. In Canada, the number of bridges 50 years or older increased by 50% between 2006 and 2010. In UK, WSP has recently concluded a landmark four-year research projects for Highways England to examine the condition of their bridges and develop wide ranging evidence-based recommendations to enhance future practice in bridge design and bridge management.
Our bridge experts help develop cost-effective ways to achieve ever-longer durability requirements. “We are experts in non-destructive testing and monitoring of bridges to assist clients with their asset management plans,” says Eric Peissel WSP's Vice President Transportation in Canada. This is important because more challenges are coming. Automated trucks driving in a platooning mode will exert a new kind of stress on bridge structures.
At WSP, the international experience of our bridge teams can be leveraged to help clients envision the complete lifespan of their projects, from the feasibility stage forward. Our teams provide expertise in areas such as statutory approvals and planning, heritage, construction methods and economics, foundations and materials, and more.
Setting the standards for bridge design
WSP is a global leader in the development and implementation of standards for bridge design, load rating and management, supporting clients, national authorities and international standards bodies. Standards play a key role in bridge engineering, defining requirements and providing best-practice guidance.
“We are at the forefront of the development of the Structural Eurocodes,” explains Steve Denton, WSP’s Head of Civil, Bridge and Ground Engineering in UK. These design standards are used by 500, 000 engineers across Europe and in many other countries around the world.
Working with Highways England, WSP is also supporting the complete refresh of the UK Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB). This suite of standards is used for all highway schemes and comprises over 300 documents with a combined length in excess of 11 000 pages.